Manitoba food and agricultural processors stand to benefit from an agreement between CentrePort Canada, SinoTrans Eastern Company and Invent IOT Technology.
The agreement, which was signed Sept. 18 during a trade mission to China and witnessed by Premier Greg Selinger, brings together Winnipeg’s 20,000-acre inland port and China’s largest logistics and transportation company, along with Invent’s radio frequency identification, or RFID, tag system.
"This is the start of a partnership between the three of us," said CentrePort executive director of marketing and communication Riva Harrison. "A key aspect of the agreement is that our projects will move forward using RFID technology."
The technology ensures the origin, authenticity, security and overall integrity of food and agricultural product shipments. Earlier this year, a pilot project involving the shipment of 250 tonnes of Manitoba soybeans to Chongqing, China using RDIF technology was successful.
Harrison said that the ability to ensure the integrity and traceability of such shipments is increasingly important in global trade in light of food contamination issues.
China is now Manitoba’s second largest trading partner with $1.8 billion in two-way trade in 2011.
Harrison said it’s hoped that figure will increase with the help of the new agreement.
"I think the feeling is that there’s real room for growth," she said.
Kyle Friesen, president of the Manitoba Pulse Growers Association, said he too is optimistic about how the agreement might benefit agricultural producers by providing competitively-priced transportation for sales to China.
"It’s a step in the right direction," he said.
One challenge that could limit new trade is the lack of available shipping containers in Winnipeg, and across western Canada. The containers are favoured by Chinese importers.
Harrison said while Manitobans often see these large containers being hauled across the province by rail, most are destined for port locations.